RRT Blue Mountains ready to assist
The Blue Mountain’s, west of Sydney is one of the most fire prone areas in the world. With a line of towns stretching through National Parks, 75 000 residents and thousands of tourists, both national and international, travelling through visiting famous landmarks such as The Three Sisters, enjoying a ride into the Jamison valley on the worlds steepest railway or if feeling energetic…..climbing the 1000 steps of the giant stairway to the top.
All ok ……. until bushfire breaks out somewhere in the 143 000 ha of World Heritage Area, with thousands of tourists to evacuate, bush-walkers and abseilers in the valleys, 27 towns possibly under threat and one major winding highway being shared with panic stricken residents, school buses, ambulances evacuating the many nursing homes and responding fire appliance vehicles.
This area with elevations of up to 1200m, has been devastated by bushfire on a regular basis since first crossed by European explorers opening up the country for settlement in 1813.
Major fires have impacted this area in 1901, 1911, 1951, 1957, 1968, 1978, 1994, and more recently in 2002. Leura was devastated in 1957 with over 200 buildings including houses, school, shops and churches destroyed in one afternoon. Since 1911, 580 buildings have been destroyed by bushfire in the Mountains.
For many years, the Brethren living in this area have been actively involved with the Emergency Services, both during major campaign fires assisting with logistics, forklifts supplied with drivers, bulk water supplies for helicopters, evacuation assistance, property protection, and fundraising for local fire stations during the off seasons. Donations have even included new kitchens and seating requirements for some local fire stations.
During the 1978 fires in Springwood, Brethren assisted fire personnel and the police force not only by providing refreshments and navigators for out of area emergency personnel, but relieved the fire-fighters by manning the fire trucks.
In the 1994 fire season, brethren equipped with private fire appliances, became actively involved in property protection, providing assistance for distressed members of the public who were fleeing from fires and seeking refuge.
Above is some of the equipment owned and operated by the Brethren.
Although training was undertaken by some members during the 1990s for Basic Fire-fighter Certification, the need for a more organised approach with values placed on control and protection was put into place in November 2006. Equipment and resource registers were prepared, along with advanced first aid training by personnel from the Emergency services.
In 2009, due to increasing interest in assisting during these disasters, the Brethren enlisted the NSW Fire Brigade Comsafe section to train over 30 members on First Attack Fire Fighting, pumper operation, property protection and evacuation procedures.
In view of further assistance to the Rural Fire Service with a large number of energetic(mostly), fit (mostly), young (mostly) and sober(always) willing helpers, a training program was undertaken by the Blue Mountains Superintendent and his dedicated training team. This resulted in the training of over 72 personnel to Bushfire Awareness (BFA) level, being excellent for anyone working in areas of assistance to emergency personnel and benefit to members of the public. High priority given to preparation, survival, understanding local conditions, structure of RFS and operations.
This Rapid Relief Team with years of experience, equipment, training, motivation and insurance for Public Liability/Voluntary Workers cover is willing to help and ‘support the local community in times of need’.